US FB users spread Russian propaganda less when source revealed


New York, Oct 17 (IANS): Facebook users in the US are less apt to press the Like button on content when they learn that it is part of a foreign propaganda campaign, according to a new report from non-profit RAND Corporation.

Researchers say that Russia is using political memes to polarise Americans, particularly those at the extreme ends of the political spectrum who typically like and share content that aligns with their political views at higher rates than others.

But a RAND study suggests that most are open to reconsidering their initial response to a Russian meme after its source is revealed to them.

"Left- and right-wing audiences are particular targets of Russian propaganda efforts, so they naturally have a big reaction because the propaganda speaks to them," said Todd Helmus, the study's lead author and a senior behavioural scientist at RAND.

"A big reaction also means a lot of room for improvement in terms of learning how to think critically about the source of a particular news item, and the consequences of passing it along to others."

The RAND report is the third of a four-part series intended to help policymakers and the public understand -- and mitigate -- the threat of online foreign interference in national, state and local elections.

The latest study used a randomised controlled trial of more than 1,500 Facebook users to understand how people react emotionally to Russian propaganda and whether media literacy content or labelling the source of a meme could help prevent the spread, and thus influence, of Russian propaganda on social media platforms.

 

  

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